Wilhelmina always tried.
Even when she knew she couldn't do it, she always tried her hardest, did her best, at everything. It just never seemed to be good enough. When she was very small and people held her and talked to her, she tried very hard to understand, but they always put her down and walked away, leaving her alone. She was cold, and alone, and hungry, but oh, she didn't want to cry! Didn't want to cause trouble.
When she was larger, the other children were always falling and crying and dropping things and making a mess. She made a mess once, playing with toys, and Alexandra had been terribly angry…she didn't make messes again. Once she fell, exploring the garden. Her hair had been matted with blood in moments, but she'd stumbled to the bathroom and gotten bandages, washed her own hair as well as she could, wrapped her head in a bandage.
She grew, and when she was four Jaenelle came. She remembered her first glimpse of her sister's eyes, touching her soft, reaching hand and looking into her bright eyes, and thought that she saw something there that frightened her. She shied back and stepped away. It seemed as though Jaenelle was always watching her, but at least Jaenelle was never angry. Wilhelmina didn't have to worry about upsetting Jaenelle like she did about upsetting Philip or Robert or, worst of all, Alexandra.
She couldn't please Philip because he was always angry. She brought him flowers and he gave her a tight smile and thanked her, but she could see in his eyes that he didn't mean it. When Philip was angry, he walked straight and tall with tense shoulders and cold steel in his eyes.
At her Birthright Ceremony, Wilhelmina watched Alexandra as she was gifted with her Jewel. Wilhelmina's mouth was tight as she applauded, her hands stiff and straight and white as they came together once or twice. Wilhelmina was crushed, but she did not cry. Not there. It would have bothered people, and she hated to bother people. That night, however, alone, she cried into her pillow, muffling the sound so she would not wake anyone. Jaenelle knew, though. Jaenelle was awake when Wilhelmina sat up to blow her nose, her wide blue eyes watching Wilhelmina with more understanding than was right.
She hurried back to bed.
After her ceremony, Robert started to pay more attention to her. He was hard to please as well. He smiled at her and asked to play, but then when she wanted to go in the gardens, or out with a pony, he would shake his head sternly and say that 'no, no, young Ladies do not do that, young Ladies do not plant flowers, don't you want to be a young Lady?'
And of course she did, because Bobby wanted her to be a young lady. So she stayed inside and played with the dolls he got her, the pretty houses made by landens far away, the fancy dresses Bobby found to dress her dolls in. He kneeled beside her, and she wanted to tell him that she didn't like the way he sat so close, but he always smiled at her and seemed so happy that she could not. But then he would yell at her for some little thing, slap her lightly or give her a spanking and storm out, sometimes breaking little bits of doll furniture along the way, and Wilhelmina had to struggle not to cry because crying would make everyone unhappy, and she didn't want to make anyone unhappy.
One of the days, Bobby brought her a present. Delighted, she opened it as Bobby sat cross-legged, leaning forward, watching her face. She pulled out a beautiful doll, lovely and porcelain with a pretty smile and lifelike blue eyes that matched her own, black hair that was as soft as satin. It was not a thing to be played with, but rather a thing to be looked at. It wasn't Wilhelmina's at all, but she smiled, glad that Bobby was so happy when she opened the gift, and thanked him before setting the doll on the dresser.
She looked at it for a long while before she felt Uncle Bobby's hand on her shoulder. "Wilhelmina, Darling, can I ask you for one little gift in return for this lovely doll?"
Wilhelmina smiled. At last, a chance to please him, to truly make him happy! That was all she wanted. For everyone to be happy. "What is it?"
He knelt down so he was on her level, both hands on her shoulders. She could feel them weighing her down. "Give me a kiss, dear."
She felt sudden disgust and a sudden certainty that she did not want to kiss Uncle Bobby. She shook her head. "No, you can ask me anything other than that and I'll-"
"What did you say?" She heard the strange note in his voice but rushed on.
"I could make you a crown or a wreath or I made Cook a really nice painting it's in the kitchen…"
"Wilhelmina," he says with an air of exasperated patience. "I don't want a painting. I want a kiss."
She wrung her hands in utter distress. "I could make something out of clay or I could buy you something with my pocket money – I've been saving it…"
He cut her off. "Wilhelmina! I asked for a kiss. Are you going to give me one? I'll be very unhappy if you don't." He frowned. It tore at her heart.
She cringed, curling into herself, and burst out, "I don't want to give you a kiss!"
Uncle Bobby looked at her, and he looked unhappy. No, he looked angry. Wilhelmina swallowed the lump in her throat and tried very very hard not to cry, because crying would upset him and she didn't want to upset him. But she had! All because she didn't want to give him a kiss.
"Fine," he said coldly. "If that's your choice." He stood, reached, picked up the doll and looked at her lovely face.
"Wait!" Wilhelmina cried, in anguish. "No, I'll do it, I'll do it, I'm sorry…"
Bobby gave her a look that had nothing of compassion in it, only cold fury. "I gave you your chance. I don't think you understand." His hand grasped a handful of the silky black hair and pulled. The clumps came out easily, drifts of black satin floating to the ground. Wilhelmina screamed and begged for another chance, but he seemed not to hear her. When she was bald, her lovely head stripped of all it's hair, Bobby looked back at Wilhelmina, tears streaming down her face silently. She didn't want to cry. Crying upset people. But the doll had been so lovely…
Looking in her uncle's eyes, she couldn't see the anger anymore. There was nothing, nothing, nothing. He didn't even care. He turned and left, dropping the doll carelessly to the hard tiled floor.
She made a horrible sound when she shattered. Wilhelmina kept her sobs silent.
Wilhelmina spent the rest of the night gathering up the shards of porcelain until her hands bled, trying to put them back together into the lovely face of the porcelain doll. The hair wouldn't stick, the pieces wouldn't hold together, and the face was hopelessly ruined by a multitude of cracks. Finally she swept up all the fragments and threw them away, leaving no trace of the little doll. She didn't want to make a mess.
Jaenelle was awake, sitting up and watching Wilhelmina. "Go to sleep, Jaenelle," Wilhelmina said, rather harshly, and crawled into bed, bone weary, her face still streaked with tears. She put her face in her pillow and swallowed, hard. She couldn't cry, not now. Crying would make people unhappy, and she didn't want to make anyone unhappy.